New course sharpens platoon sergeant leadership

By Capt. Eric Barton, 133rd Mobile Public Affairs Detachment

Staff Sgt. Debra Goodman with the 438th Military Police Company prepares for her turn in the Close Quarters Marksmanship portion of the Tactical Leaders Course at the Wendell H. Ford Regional Training Center in Greenville, Ky., April 14, 2019. Goodman and 22 other Soldiers from the 149th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade participated in the first ever course designed to sharpen the leadership skills of platoon sergeants in the Kentucky Guard. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Capt. Eric Barton)

GREENVILLE, Ky. — “FOLLOW ME” echoed through the budding woods at the Wendell H. Ford Regional Training Center (WHFRTC) during the first ever Tactical Leaders Course hosted by the 238th Regional Training Institute and the 149th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade (MEB), April 12-14 2019 in Greenville. Twenty three Soldiers from units across the MEB participated in the three-day course which focused training on basic Soldier and leadership skills to include, operation orders, squad tactical lanes, Army physical fitness, and close quarter marksmanship training.

The idea for such an event came during a first sergeant and company commander pre-command course at WHFRTC. Leaders from across the state expressed the need for a “special event for E-6’s” to Maj. Gen. Stephen Hogan, Kentucky’s adjutant general. From there the idea of the Tactical Leaders Course was born.

“E-6’s are at the absolute tip of the spear in readiness. Our E-6’s are extremely valuable and not easily replaced.  They are the ones that make it happen, where the rubber meets the road,” said Hogan as he watched Soldiers conduct Close Quarter Marksmanship (CQM) training early Sunday morning. “We need to ensure our E-6’s are empowered by providing ownership of various missions assigned. Every order given, from myself down to the platoon sergeant level, is executed by the E-6. The intent of this course is to invigorate our E-6’s in their leadership positions.”

Maj. John Gensley, the brigade training officer of the 149th MEB worked closely with the 238th Regiment in developing the time, space, and resources to meet the command’s intent for the weekend. “We had a tight timeline in developing this event, but that did not negatively affect us. The execution of this event has been excellent,” said Gensley. “We as an Army have focused for so long on COIN operations, that we have somewhat distanced ourselves from the basic Soldier skills. Our future engagements will most likely deal with ‘near peer’ threats so we need to get back to the basics of field training. At the end of the day, any good leader is going to step up and lead his/her Soldiers provided they can shoot, move, and communicate. That’s what we are focusing on in this course, basic leadership competencies.”

In keeping with TAG’s main lines of effort, physical readiness was a hot topic during course. To drive the point home and arm the MEB’s E-6’s physical knowledge, the Kentucky National Guard’s Attack Exercise through Education team also known as the “AXE” team, was on the scene. The AXE team addressed physical fitness through nutrition, attitude, and exercise technique. “This is great!” one Soldier gasped as he moved through various exercises. “Honestly, I’ve always just focused on push ups, sit ups, and running. I’m looking forward to trying these new techniques out for myself and bringing this knowledge back to my Soldiers!”

“It is harder than it looks.” said 1st Sgt. Anthony Kennedy, of the 238th Regiment, as he reflected on the tactical portion of the course. “I think it has been a real eye opener to students. When discussing the tactical lanes in the after action review, the biggest weakness pointed out was the lack of communication, especially under the stress we created during the event. We want our Soldiers to get back to the basics, regardless of MOS, every Soldier is a rifleman first. The majority of these staff sergeants have mentioned that they plan to bring these lessons learned back to their respective units.”

Command Sgt. Maj. Jerry Sipe of the 201st Engineer Battalion remarked, “This is a training event that will improve the quality of our leaders. It teaches them to communicate lessons learned and foster an environment of mentorship. The best part is that this is what our Soldiers want to do, this is what they signed up for.”

“Two rounds, two seconds,” snapped the CQM range OIC. Immediately shots rang out from the firing line as the shooters executed the orders and scanned their surroundings. While reloading his M-4 magazines, Staff Sgt. Cory Valdivieso, a construction engineering supervisor with the 149th Vertical Engineer Company commented, “This is exactly what the Guard needs. This is why I joined the Guard, and what I’ve wanted to do. The training over the past few days has given me a snap shot of what I should be doing as a leader to maximize the training of my Soldiers. Honestly, this event has made me reconsider leaving the Army.”

For the Soldiers of the 149th MEB this training will not soon be forgotten. All who were involved in conducting the Tactical Leaders Course did so with a great deal of pride, enthusiasm, and excellence. The state’s leadership and members of the 238th Regiment hope to continue this training event in the near future.